Trust and Obey - Abraham
Now the Lord had said to Abram: “Get out of your country, From your family And from your father’s house, To a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you And make your name great; And you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” So Abram departed as the Lord had spoken to him, and Lot went with him. And Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran.
1 What then shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” 4 Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. 5 But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, 6 just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works: 7 “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, And whose sins are covered; 8 Blessed is the man to whom the Lord shall not impute sin.” 9 Does this blessedness then come upon the circumcised only, or upon the uncircumcised also? For we say that faith was accounted to Abraham for righteousness. 10 How then was it accounted? While he was circumcised, or uncircumcised? Not while circumcised, but while uncircumcised. 11 And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while still uncircumcised, that he might be the father of all those who believe, though they are uncircumcised, that righteousness might be imputed to them also, 12 and the father of circumcision to those who not only are of the circumcision, but who also walk in the steps of the faith which our father Abraham had while still uncircumcised. 13 For the promise that he would be the heir of the world was not to Abraham or to his seed through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. 14 For if those who are of the law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise made of no effect, 15 because the law brings about wrath; for where there is no law there is no transgression. 16 Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed, not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all 17 (as it is written, “I have made you a father of many nations”) in the presence of Him whom he believed—God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did; 18 who, contrary to hope, in hope believed, so that he became the father of many nations, according to what was spoken, “So shall your descendants be.” 19 And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah’s womb. 20 He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, 21 and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform. 22 And therefore “it was accounted to him for righteousness.” 23 Now it was not written for his sake alone that it was imputed to him, 24 but also for us. It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, 25 who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification.
‘Trust and obey’
(Believed) Abram set out from his home country because he believed God told him to do so. He believed God and it was his belief that was counted for righteousness. All belief requires action to prove the belief but it was his trust in God that was sufficient for him to be declared righteous or just.
The spirit flows where He will and like Abram who did not know where he was going, many times we also do not know where we are going – we simply must trust God to lead us and as we take each step the path become lit. When Moses came to the Red Sea he was told to move forward – which seemed an impossible step to do – but forward he went and the Red Sea split in two.
(Leadership) When we walk in obedience to what God is saying then we find, like Abram and Lot, that others will come along too – it is contagious – there is a sense of purpose that comes from hearing God and then doing it; first; for the one who hears and, then, secondly, for the ones who see.
(Supply) Trusting in God doesn’t always mean that life is going to be easy or the path smooth – trusting in God means that he will supply you with your need. When I was called as a missionary to Macedonia – God told me to go to a place I knew nothing off – it was no easy thing to explain to my family and friends – why? Because there was no organisation who was going to pay me or provide housing – God called me to go and the church supported me in that decision but it was a road that had no markings other than pointing me to Macedonia. What I found was that God provided everything I needed – the road of trust is a road that is exciting and adventurous – it will lead us to see God at work – Jesus said that he came to bring life in all its fullness – and it is evident in the lives of his apostles that they did not lead boring lives. Our lives are hardly boring if we want to trust God!
(Obedience) Faith still requires obedience - It was only in Abram going that the promise of being blessed was going to be put into effect. I’m not sure what we think about Abram leaving as he did – sure he had possessions – but there was no guarantee of water or food or shelter where he was headed. There was no guarantee of heat, certainly no electricity. But went he did. And he was blessed for doing so for he became the richest of men and through him came Israel and a number of other nations. So Abram was personally blessed because of his faithfulness and trust in God – Abram, because of his obedience was blessed with old age, wealth, peace, prosperity – all these things came from God. I went to Macedonia with a backpack and a two-man tent – I came back with a wife and seven ginormous and heavy suitcases and the airline waived the excess baggage fee. But with all that said we are not guaranteed worldly prosperity for being obedient to God, but our reward in God is greater than all these things.
(Blessing others) Now just as Abram was blessed personally there was a greater purpose at work that was not just about Abram – it was so that through his blessing others would be blessed. The Christian life is the same – God does want to bless us personally and there is no doubt about it but he also wants us to be a blessing to others.
Abram in his blessing had Isaac in his old age and led to his greatest descendant: Jesus, himself. Without Abram Jesus would not have been born, at least, humanly speaking. It was the fulfilment of the promise given in Genesis 12. It is in this way that every family can bless themselves if they acknowledge Jesus as the one who has authority in their lives. We too can be blessed if we acknowledge Jesus.
(Delivered from the law) The promise to us is not that we will have large families, or land or prosperity but that we will not be condemned or judged. Jesus came not to judge the world but that we may be saved through him. Delivered from what? From obedience to the law. No matter what our strivings we cannot better our relationship to and with God. In fact, the opposite is true.
When people speak of good people going to Heaven on what are they judging? According to law. But this is what Jesus came to deliver us from. The law proves to us as individuals, and as a common thing to all people, that we cannot achieve what the law says. The law commands certain things and though we are aware of the law we are law breakers. Has anyone here broken the speed limit? Has anyone here ever lied? Has anyone here spoken behind someone’s back? And I could go on looking at the 10 commandments and prove to you that you and I have broken every single one. If that is not bad enough Scripture declares that if we have broken the law in one place we have effectively broken them all. We cannot get to Heaven by obeying the law or as others would put it – by being good. This is what sparked the Reformation - a rediscovery that we cannot make it by our good works but only by God’s mercy.
It is not on the basis of good works that we are saved or delivered from the law. I know that I say this a lot in my sermons but it is because we think that somehow we please God by doing good. It is, of course, right to do good, but before God it does not improve our standing with Him. But what does it say about Abram – that he had faith. Faith in its most simple form is trusting God; that what he says he will do; He is able to make things out of things that cannot be seen; that those things that are impossible He can make it happen. “If God says it, that settles it” is the attitude of faith. And no matter what anyone else says this is unshakeable and above all argument.
Jesus delivers us from the power of the law and the power of sin by one thing and one thing only – by believing/ trusting in Jesus.
For Scripture declares that those who believe are justified, set free, forgiven, delivered from the law, saved, and no longer judged. But for those who do not believe, it says, they are condemned already.
Jesus came so that we would not be judged as we ought to be – Jesus paid the penalty for our sin by becoming a man living under the law to set us free from the law. This is God’s promise to us, and just as Abram believed, all that is required of us is that we believe.
Oh the pain we go through when we strive to be good, we strive to gain favour with God but it is not the way of God. We strive to be good not to gain favour with God but in response to his love: Love that gave its all for us. This is worth repeating: doing good does not gain favour with God but we do good in response to His overwhelming love: love that gave His own Son.
To love God with all our heart, mind and soul and to love our neighbour as ourselves is no longer something impossible to do, no longer something we are striving towards heaven with but we love because He first loved us. Love is not something that we can strive for – it is simply given and taken.
Our Father Abram gained blessing simply because he believed – not because he was a good man who worked hard – it was a gift – not his wages – and we are children of Abraham if we realise that everything we have is a gift from God – we are not trying to earn a wage from God but instead we receive blessing from him as a gift: For Hebrews states very clearly that without faith we cannot please God. Without faith we cannot please God.
This is so liberating when we realise that striving can stop – that we cannot curry favour with God – the favour with God has been given to us through Jesus Christ setting us free from the law by dying and rising again – where the wages of sin is death – and Jesus willingly took those wages for us – but it did not end there – but with the resurrection it set free all who trust in him – we died with him in baptism and we were raised to new life and the life we now live is in Christ.
We only revert back to trying to please God with our actions, that is, by trying to keep the law when we forget that we have been forgiven of our sin. Jesus did not come to judge the world – he came to set it free – and like all gifts we can take it or leave it.
Trusting, that is, believing, in Jesus gives us eternal life – it is not a life that starts when we die but a life that starts now – you may have heard God whispering about something that needs to be done, it maybe that there is a prompting in a particular direction – the amazing thing about those who trust in Jesus is that we can hear his voice; a voice saying this is the way, walk ye in it.
For those who trust in Jesus there is no judgement, no condemnation, but love, joy, and peace in the Holy Spirit. A life that starts now, a life that is lived to the ultimate fullness. A life that leads to life eternal. Our trust and obedience is not based on falsehood but in reality – based on a person, on our relationship with Jesus.
Abram stepped out in faith (for if you believe it leads to action: this is what trust and obey means)) – he stepped out because He believed in God who is in control and that God is big enough to sort it out if it all goes pear-shaped or, indeed, if have heard God wrong. If we acknowledge the Lord in all our ways he will direct our paths – that is, if we put our plans in his hands he will let us know which way we should go – and all we have to do is simply follow the lit path. You might have noticed that the man we have been talking about was called Abram; afterwards he became Abraham. It changes us when we trust in God. He changes us when we trust in Him.
It would be amiss of me to say that trusting and obeying leads to some utopia for Jesus also heard the voice of God and obeyed and it took Him to the cross; a road marked with suffering and it could be the same for us – there is a cost to us in following but we do follow because we know that He loves us and gave Himself for us and this is a debt we cannot repay.
Today, if we hear his voice – just like Abraham, like Moses, like Jesus, if we hear his voice say; ‘Yes, Lord, here I am, wholly available for you – where you lead I will go.’
Go is peace to love and serve the Lord, in the name of Christ. Amen.